|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:14-20 The sorrow of the people is turned into repentance and humiliation before God. With all the marks of sorrow and shame, sin must be confessed and bewailed. A day is to be appointed for this purpose; a day in which people must be kept from their common employments, that they may more closely attend God's services; and there is to be abstaining from meat and drink. Every one had added to the national guilt, all shared in the national calamity, therefore every one must join in repentance. When joy and gladness are cut off from God's house, when serious godliness decays, and love waxes cold, then it is time to cry unto the Lord. The prophet describes how grievous the calamity. See even the inferior creatures suffering for our transgression. And what better are they than beasts, who never cry to God but for corn and wine, and complain of the want of the delights of sense? Yet their crying to God in those cases, shames the stupidity of those who cry not to God in any case. Whatever may become of the nations and churches that persist in ungodliness, believers will find the comfort of acceptance with God, when the wicked shall be burned up with his indignation.
Verses 19, 20. - O Lord, to thee will I cry. In consideration of man and beast - creatures rational and irrational being subject to so much hardship and suffering - the prophet appeals in intense earnestness of spirit to God, and all the more so because of the encouragement of his own Word, as it is written, "Lord, thou preservest man and beast." For the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The fire and flame here referred to denote the fiery heat of the drought which burnt up the meadows and scorched the trees. Some seem to understand the terms literally, as applied to setting on fire the heath, or even the trees, in order to check the progress of the locusts or turn them aside by smoke and flame. This, however, is refuted by the following verse, which mentions the rivers of water being dried up: The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness. In like manner we read in Jeremiah 14:4-6, "Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the ploughmen were ashamed, they covered their heads. Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass. And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass." The various animals suffering from hunger and thirst express their distress in loud and lamentable, though inarticulate, cries. The Hebrew words which respectively denote the cries of the different animals are, according to Rashi, the following: ערג expresses the cry of deer; נהם (also שׁאג), to roar like lions; נעה, to low as oxen; צחל, to neigh like horses; ציפצופ (rather צִפְצִפ, fulfil), to twitter or chirp as birds. Further, the subject is plural, but the verb is singular, for the purpose of individualizing.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
O Lord, to thee will I cry,.... Or pray, as the Targum; with great vehemency and earnestness, commiserating the case of man and beast: these are the words of the prophet, resolving to use his interest at the through of grace in this time of distress, whatever others did:
for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness; or, "of the plain" (c) though in the wildernesses of Judea, there were pastures for cattle: Kimchi interprets them of the shepherds' tents or cotes, as the word (d) is sometimes used; which were will not to be pitched where there were pastures for their flocks: and so the Targum renders it, "the habitations of the wilderness"; these, whether pastures or habitations, or both, were destroyed by fire, the pastures by the locusts, as Kimchi; which, as Pliny (e) says, by touching burn the trees, herbs, and fruits of the earth; see Joel 2:3; or by the Assyrians or Chaldeans, who by fire and sword consumed all in their way; or by a dry burning blasting wind, as Lyra; and so the Targum interprets it of a strong east wind like fire: it seems rather to design extreme heat and excessive drought, which burn up all the produce of the earth:
and the flame hath burnt all the trees of the field; which may be understood of flashes of lightning, which are common in times of great heat and drought; see Psalm 83:14.
(c) "non tantum desertum significat sed et campum sativum", Oecolampadius. "A place of pasture for cattle", Ben Melech. (d) "caulas", Piscator. So Ben Melech. (e) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 29.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. to thee will I cry—Joel here interposes, As this people is insensible to shame or fear and will not hear, I will leave them and address myself directly to Thee (compare Isa 15:5; Jer 23:9).
fire—that is, the parching heat.
pastures—"grassy places"; from a Hebrew root "to be pleasant." Such places would be selected for "habitations" (Margin). But the English Version rendering is better than Margin.
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